Today is Palm Sunday, the first day of Holy Week, when Christians each year commemorate the events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. This week, our theme is “The Incredible Power of the Cross” — why the cross of Christ is such a pivotal event in history and its transformative effect on our lives. We also remember Clare of Assisi, a wealthy young woman who gave up everything, took up her cross daily, and became a living sacrifice for God.
This week’s short message by Pastor Eric Stetson. Watch the video or read text below.
Today is Laetare Sunday, a special day in the Christian liturgical calendar when we pause during the austere season of Lent for a joyful celebration. The word laetare in Latin means rejoice! — and it comes from a verse in the Book of Isaiah that is traditionally read on this day:
In this week’s service, we focus on the theme of Joy — rejoicing even despite our troubles and afflictions, which is made possible by faith in a God who loves us with infinite compassion. In the middle of Lent, we pause for celebration of a God who cares for us and uplifts us as our perfect Mother and Father in Heaven, fortifying our souls for the journey to the cross of Christ that lies ahead. We also tell the story of Fanny Crosby, who overcame severe disability and became one of the most prolific hymn writers in history.
This week, on February 2, Christians celebrate Candlemas, commemorating the presentation of the infant Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem and the purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. According to Jewish tradition, every firstborn son was to be consecrated to the Lord with a sacrifice of a pair of doves or young pigeons, and according to the Gospel of Luke, Jesus’s parents followed this custom [Luke 2:22-24].
But the significance of Candlemas goes deeper than that. As it has developed in the Christian tradition, it is a day to reflect on the Divine Light that shines in Christ as the light of the world. On Candlemas, many Christians in both Catholic and Protestant churches bring candles to church to be blessed, and these blessed candles are used for the rest of the year, as a symbol and a reminder of Jesus who illuminates our hearts with the light of God.
In the midst of a dark winter, let us look to the light of Christ and find it shining within ourselves. This week, we celebrate the light of God that enlightens our world through Jesus Christ, and our calling to join Jesus in spreading the light through our own actions. We also recognize the important contributions of Barnabas, who worked with Paul to spread the faith as a devoted apostle.